Behold, I Make All Things New

“Life was good. Death was brutal. And resurrection was worth it.”–Annie F. Downs (Via the In Real Life Friended Simulcast)

On Saturday, as I watched the simulcast of the in real life event, these words echoed in my heart and soul. How often have we found ourselves enjoying life; things are good, maybe even great and then death comes our way or the virtual car of life we are driving veers off course?

The reality is that it can stop us in our tracks. It can be totally expected or it can seem to come out of no where. It is in these moments of death that we find ourselves wondering if life and resurrection are possible again. The truth is we trust in the promise of resurrection but in the midst of death, it is hard to see resurrection.

Death has this way of jolting us in ways we never imagined. I can think of the many times in my life when I have found myself living in liminal space; in the midst of unexpected change. Life was going along well, and then all of a sudden death came my way. And that death was indeed brutal. I found myself wondering if I would ever see the light again; wondering if resurrection would ever come again.

Yet resurrection reminds us that death does not have the last word. I am once again reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Clarence W. Hall. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.” God and only God has the power to overcome death and the grave.

And when we believe in that promise, we see that resurrection does come. In my moments of liminal space; jagged grace; and change, I have seen new life emerge from the death. “Behold, I make all things new.” Our God is indeed a God of new life and resurrection. There are indeed times when I wish that death was not a part of the journey of life. It is so incredibly painful; whether it be the loss of a friend, a job, someone we love or whatever it may be. Yet out of our brokenness, out of our death, God brings new life and resurrection. And as Annie reminds us, resurrection is worth it.

“Death is not the end of the story. It never is.”–Annie F. Downs


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Bigger than We could Ever Imagine

“I’ve walked among the shadows; You wiped my tears away; And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak; And I’ve seen the brighter days; And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place; And I have held the blessings;God, you give and take away.” (Hills and Valleys–Tauren Wells

This song has been one of those songs that has been playing in my heart and soul. Every time I hear it, I belt along with the words. And then the other day, I read this post by my blog friend Kaitlyn Bouchillon. It’s a post I can’t shake because her words speak to me so much. As she reminds us, God is greater than our highs and lows.

In the midst of Jagged Grace; in the midst of the lows, it can seem God isn’t there. But the truth is God is indeed there. And today, I find myself on the other side of the mountain; knowing that God is with me now and was with me in the midst of unexpected change. God is a God who promises to never leave us or forsake us.

Im so thankful for that promise…because God is greater than we could ever imagine. God is a God of “the hills and valleys” indeed. Thanks be to God!


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Holy Invitations

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. This is also Day 13 of the Write 31 Days challenge. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “invite.” We would love to have you join us.

A Holy Invitation
By Tara L Ulrich

The hands and feet of Jesus
Friends who sit with you
In the hard
And lift prayers on
Your behalf.

Giving voice
When you cannot
Find the words
Yourself.

A holy invitation
A reminder that
We are not alone

Holy invitations
That make us whole again.


During my times of living in liminal space, I’m thankful for the invites from friends who knew just what I needed. It might have been giving me their shoulder to cry on or a couple of bottles of my favorite wine. Or it was an ear to listen as I sorted through the uncertainty.

There was the day this summer that my friend EG and I sat in a paddleboat and took in the holiness of God’s creation on the beautiful prairies of North Dakota. This is just one invitation of a holy invitation; a holy invitation commissioned by God.

So when others are hurting, living in liminal space, or experiencing jagged grace, may we remember to invite them to sit; offering words when they cannot find them for themselves. It is in these holy invites that we know that we are never alone. That God will bring peace, healing and wholeness to those who are weary.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, And I will give you rest!”-Matthew 11:28


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Falling into the Trap of Comparison

“What could I have done differently?” This is only one of the many questions that runs through our minds when we find ourselves in a time of unexpected change; of living in liminal space.

We so easily find ourselves falling into the trap of comparing ourselves to someone else. She is prettier than I am. She is smarter than I am. And the list goes on and on. Falling into this trap is natural, but God reminds us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”–Psalm 139:13-14 (NRSV)

We each have been given our own unique gifts and God does not want us to compare ourselves to others. I love this quote from Holley Gerth over at her blog yesterday,

Let’s never think we are more holy or whole than someone else. We may have cracks in different places, but we are all still broken and still beloved.”

That is the truth, my friends, in the midst of jagged grace, we are all still broken but we are also just as much or even more loved by our God. It takes the breaking to make us whole again. And in our new wholeness, we are whole but just a little bit more fragile than we were before the last awful occurrence of our lives.

God redeems us all in the midst of our brokenness through the jagged grace God offers each and every one of us. Recently I was reading “The Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Warren and one of the quotes from her book jumped out at me. Tish writes, ”

I’ll hold on to the truth that my body, in all its brokenness, is beloved, and that one day it will be, like the resurrected body of Christ, glorious.”

Together, we are all broken, redeemed, glorious children of God; always loved and claimed by God.


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Surrendering to the Summit

“We’ve buried dreams, laid them deep into the earth behind us. Said our goodbyes at the grave but everything reminds us. I know sweet ache when he asks us to go on. How do we go on?” (Red Sea Road–Ellie Holcomb)

I placed one foot in front of the other as we hiked up the path to the top of Estes Cone. My friends Scott, Kristi and Jim leading the way. I started out determined to get to the top of that mountain. Scott and Kristi, avid hikers, reminding me to regulate my breathing as we hiked along.

Soon we came to the site of an old coal mine where we stopped and took a rest. Horses and riders also stopped to rest. We trudged around the horse manure as we found our way back to the path.

The higher and higher we got, the more switchbacks we encountered. I found myself struggling to go any further. My whiny voice crying out, “I don’t think I can go any further.” My friends encouraging me every step of the year. Kristi telling me to pretend I am window shopping.

In the midst of both laughter and tears, I continued up that hill wondering if I would be able to surrender to it all. One step in front of the other, continuing steps as I went. Up some of the most treacherous of switchbacks, I looked out and was overcome with the awesomeness of God’s creation set before me. It literally took my breathe away.

The views gave me some of the life and hope I needed to continue on. Scott went up ahead of us. Kristi, Jim, and I slowly worked our way; switchback after switchback after switchback. As we were coming up another hard switchback, some of our other friends told us that Scott was busy administering first aid (Scott volunteers for Mountain Rescue and is always well prepared)

As we found our way closer to the summit, Scott and the gentlemen he had been helping were coming down the mountain. I sat down and cried out. “I can’t go any further.” Scott asked Kristi and Jim if they wanted to continue on so they did.

Scott worked his way down to me. He looked at me and said, “Here’s the deal. There is a chapel already ready for you. There is an altar, part of a cross, and water. I am going to go ahead and you take your time and do what you need to do.” Before heading off before me, Scott made me a makeshift cross so that my chapel would be complete. (You can read more about that experience here: My Little Chapel on the Side of the Mountain) 

As he left, I turned on my phone and the songs to Ellie Holcomb’s Red Sea Road began playing. Immediately tears began trickling down my face as I buried a small token in the rocks. And as I listened to the words of Ellie’s song, I lifted prayers to God. As they rose to him, a sense of relief and peace came over me. It was a simple letting go of the past and looking towards what was to come in the future.

I wiped the tears from my eyes and briskly walked to catch up with my friend. In silence, we hiked along until we came to a clearing in the trees. Scott pointed and simply stated, “You were about 300 feet from the base of the summit.” Feelings of accomplishment and a little bit of anger came over me. I was so close to making it to the very top of that summit. Something I have always wanted to do.

We hiked until we found our way back to the trail head. At the trail head, Scott shared three different items with me; items found along the path– two different pine cones and a prairie flower. These items were to be a reminder of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It also reminds me that I did more than I ever had done before. I may not have made it all the way to the top, but I did surrender to the summit. In fact, surrendering to God’s will is beyond our limits which is how I made it almost to the very tip top of Estes Cone.

The next day, in our morning session at the academy, Scott shared these words with me. “You cannot stay on the summit forever, You have to come down again…So why bother in the first place? Just this: what is above knows what is below; But what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, But one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up.”–Rene Dumal

Today I am linking up with Holly and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories. 


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Interludes

In theater, music, and many forms of art, an interlude often occurs in the midst of the performance. An interlude, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, is often defined as “a usually short simple play or dramatic entertainment; an intervening or interruptive period, space or event; or a musical composition inserted between the parts of a large composition, a drama, or a religious service.”

Life often comes with its own interludes too–times of transition, change, and waiting. We try to do everything in our power to stop the change (or to clear the fog as I wrote about yesterday). It is during these times of change that it seems impossible to find God. We find ourselves searching and waiting for God to show Godself to us.

It could be so easy to let the change paralyze us. In fact, in my own times of waiting, especially this past summer, there were times I found myself feeling paralyzed. I didn’t think I could take the next step. Yet when I let the interlude crescendo to the next awesome thing, I was able to trust and listen to the moving of the Holy Spirit in my own life.

The truth is that often beauty arises from the ashes of the awful things in our lives. It is almost impossible to see that beauty in the midst of the pain. But the interludes of our lives have this way of moving to a new wholeness. God has this way of taken the broken and making it whole again. Whole again—-but just a little bit more fragile than we were before.

In all actuality, sometimes we need to be broken down in order that we might be made whole again. And when we are made whole, the cracks show our brokenness embodying the Japanese art form of Kintsugi. Our cracks show God’s love and in the words of Leonard Cohen, “It’s where the light gets in.”

(This post was based off of my last sermon at my last call. You can read that sermon here: Interludes Sermon

Today I am linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup and Jennifer and Tell His Story!

 


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Fog

Have you ever tried to drive on a foggy morning? Waiting for the fog to clear? On mornings like this, it often seems like it takes forever for the fog to clear. You can only see a few feet in front of you. Sometimes life is like that too.

During my own times of living in liminal space, I have found myself waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting for the fog to clear. I have waited for God to clear the fog and show me the clearing in the sky and in my life.

Now for those of you that are not familiar with fog, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, fog is “vapor condensed to fine particles of water suspended in the lower atmosphere that differs from cloud only in being near the ground” or “a murky condition of the atmosphere or a substance causing it.” In other words, fog obstructs our view of the world around us.

A murky condition is often how I feel about the fog in my life. I find myself trying to climb out of the pit; yearning for the fog to clear. During this past summer, I literally found myself consistently living in a fog. Every time I turned around it seemed as if there was no clearing in sight. The fog was continually set before me. It seemed as if the fog would never clear.

But God has this way of clearing the fog especially when we least expect it. God parts the skies and the fog leads to a much clearer picture of the view in front of us. This summer, God cleared the fog and showed me a new vision; a brighter clearer vision of where God is leading me.


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Sabbath Sounds #1

Since it is Sabbath, we are going to keep it simple here. On Sundays, I’m going to share music that has gotten me through those moments of living in liminal space; of Jagged Grace.

My friend and soul sister Karrilee introduced me to Ellie Holcomb’s new album “Red Sea Road.” It was hard to find in Minot ND but once I did, I didn’t want to let go. I bought a cd copy and downloaded it onto my phone and Ipad. Little did I know how much these words would speak to me during my summer.

As I stood on a mountain, Ellie’s words echoing in my ear, tears began streaming down my face. “We’ve buried dreams, laid them deep into the earth behind us. Said our goodbyes at the grave but everything reminds us. I know sweet ache when he asks us to go on. How do we go on?”

We go on…because of Jagged Grace.


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When Our Stories Parallel…

Sometimes the brokenness of our own stories hits too close to home for someone else. It cuts and bleeds as much for them as it does for us. Yet our stories are uniquely ours.

Several years ago, I found myself at my local libraries writing group. I was so delighted to find this group of story sharers and wordsmiths. Words shared through poetry, stories and other forms of writing.

One of my first nights at this writing group, I sat with my beloved poetry binder set on the table in front of me. I held tight to my binder wondering if I should share. I listened intently as others shared.

After a few moments of sharing, I bravely spoke up and began to recite the words to one of the poems I had recently written. The room was quiet as I read my own words. As I finished, one of the participants quickly responded. Hurling a barrage of questions at me, “Does your mom know you are writing about her?” “How dare you write about her mental illness?” I sat in my chair; shocked, full of absolute disbelief.

I ran out the door, grabbing my coat, tears streaming down my face. Within moments, the woman who was leading the group came over to me. She thanked me for my words and told me she understood why I had to leave. I put on my coat and ran up the stairs.

Before I knew it, I was outside as the bitter ND cold hit my face. I put my keys in my car door and sat down. As I sat down, the tears began pouring down my face. I called my colleague. As he answered the phone, I was crying so hard that I literally had to catch my breathe. “Tara, what’s wrong? Take a breathe.”

I slowly regained my composure and shared what had happened. Words of reassurance poured into my ear as he reminded me that often the issue is not the issue. Something was going on in this woman’s life and my words hit way too close to home.

After hanging up the phone, I drove home. As I sat in my apartment, I reflected on the events of the night. This event was an event of Jagged grace that forever changed me.  I still share my story; remembering sometimes my story overlaps or parallels to someone else’s story.


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